We are born old and young at the same time.
We are born with great loves and great pains
that grow like an acorn grows into a tree
like god grows into the universe
I don’t think it ever occurs to grandsons that one day, they might also become grandfathers. It certainly didn’t to me. Grandfathers were like unicorns. This immensely old and interesting creature that knew everyone and everything but were apart from the hurly burly of your young life or at least that’s the way I saw them. had the good fortune to have two wonderful grandfathers and am now the grandfather to one grandson and three grand-daughters. When I was bouncing around my grandfather’s farm on Cape Breton Island delighted at everything my grandfather and I did together from milking the cows to making the summer hay, it never occurred to me to think what it was like to have been on grandfather’s end of the day. I was too busy discovering the world.
Now, when I take my grandchildren for an outing, be it something as simple as a hot chocolate on Bank Street or sledding at Brown’s Inlet, I think of my own grandparents and I know that they were having as much fun as we children were. There is something timeless and joyful in the company of grandchildren that no other relationship can equal. It is the very years which separate us that makes it strong. Both the grandparent and the grandchild instinctively understand, it will not endure forever. Time and age will separate us but in the meantime, it is as vivid and purposeful as the sun rising.
There is an old joke which goes, ‘if I had known how much fun grandchildren were, I would have begun with them and skipped the middle part’. The problem, of course, is you can’t. Being a parent has its own rewards, not the least of which will be grandchildren of your own one day, but parenting is also a fraught time. As a young person, you’re desperately running to make your mark in the world and at the same time you have this tremendous responsibility for these young lives. Fatigue clouds many days and a desperate sense of never enough hours in each day is often one’s principal companion.
It’s different being a grandparent. Very different. You’re not the principal. You’re just a supporting actor and like it or not, one’s principal responsibilities are gone. My grandfather still had his farm but it had become more a hobby for him than a pressing reality. He had a few cows, one mare, one colt, a few hens, a small garden, some hay fields. He used to say ‘enough to keep me entertained’.
Farm chores had not been a delight for my father and his brothers because there were many of them and the work was always waiting. The world had changed. I can’t remember Grandfather ever being in a hurry to do anything. Even rain at haying time wouldn’t bother him. He’d just look up at the sky and say, “tomorrow will be fine.” And it was.
I find myself in his boots today. The world has changed. I used to be running from sunrise to sunset from meeting to meeting and if I had time for anything it was carved out of the day with a pen knife. No more. If Felix, my grandson wants to spend some time being Spiderman. We’re Spiderman and we find some crayons to draw Spiderman or walls to climb or books to read or films to watch. The simplest things are now coloured in a different light.
I’m sitting in a Bank Street cafe with Felix, Clea and Evangeline who are noisy and uncertain about what they should order. In the end, they order lemonade and I order a coffee. Clea would like to know if I believe in heaven? I reply ‘of course, but there are many heavens’ and we talk about heavens for a while; and when I stop to think about it, my thoughts are mostly not about how terrible the world is, but how wonderful. -30-
Clive Doucet is a writer and former city councillor. His last book was a novel called ‘Shooting The Bruce’